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Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant

Action Opportunity, Organization

Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant is a pumped-storage hydroelectric underground power station in Marion County, just west of Chattanooga in the U.S. state of Tennessee.


Hydropower is one of the cleanest and most renewable energy sources throughout the U.S. in the southeastern U.S. the Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant is one of the largest hydropower plants.

Hydropower Explained
Hydropower is a renewable energy source that converts flowing water into electricity. Turbine rotors are connected to generators and when water flows through them, causing them to spin— the generators create electricity. There are three main sources of hydropower, which can often overlap:

1. Impoundment Facilities: This is the most common source. It uses a dam and relies on the gravitational pull of water to produce energy.

2. Pumped Storage Facilities: This source is similar to impoundment facilities, but contains a second reservoir below the dam. Water can be pumped up from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir to store energy.

Run-of-River Facilities: This method relies on natural water flow rates, sometimes without the use of a dam or reservoir.

Largest Hydropower Facilities in the US
Columbia River Power Stations: 5 out of 11 largest hydroelectric power plants

Grand Coulee Dam (Grand Coulee, Washington)
Chief Joseph Dam (Bridgeport, Washington)
John Day Dam (Goldendale, Washington)
The Dalles Dam (The Dalles, Oregon)
Rocky Reach Dam (Chelan & Douglas Counties, Washington)

Hoover Dam: Black Canyon, Colorado River (Nevada & Arizona): Generates enough power to serve 1.3 million American homes

Ludington: Pumped storage plant that draws from Lake Michigan (Ludington, Michigan)

Raccoon Mountain: Pumped storage plant that draws from Nickajack Lake (Chattanooga, Tennessee)

Glen Canyon Dam: Draws from the Colorado River (Nevada & Arizona)

Bath County: Pumped storage plant located in Bath County, Virginia

Hydropower Usage in the US
In 2017, the total installed capacity of hydropower was nearly 103,000 MW – that’s enough to power up to 103 million American homes.

Today, the US hydropower fleet contains 2,198 active power plants across 48 states
Half of U.S. hydropower capacity is located in three states: Washington, California, and Oregon
Only two states, Delaware and Mississippi, have NO utility-scale hydropower generating facilities
Four states—Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Vermont—depend on hydropower facilities for at least half of their in-state utility-scale generating capacity

Hydroelectric Power is the Largest Source of Renewable Electricity
Hydroelectric power is currently the largest producer of renewable electricity in the country, generating around 6.4% of the nation’s total electricity in 2016 as well as 43.94% of the total renewable electricity generation
In 2017, the total installed capacity of hydropower was nearly 103,000 MW – that’s enough to power up to 103 million American homes
The Pros & Cons of Hydropower
Hydroelectric Power Pros
Cost competitive and a good long-term solution, despite a heavy upfront investment
Reliable in comparison to other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar
Compatible – can be used as based-load power
Flood control from dammed reservoirs

Hydroelectric Power Cons
Causes environmental change in local landscapes and ecosystems
Risk of dam failures or drought
Not entirely free of greenhouse gas emissions, due to the large amount of concrete used in building

How Can Hydropower Shape the Future?
The U.S. Department of Energy released a road map that aims to increase installed capacity by nearly 50 GW by 2050, a 49% increase from today’s installed capacity.

This report claims that investing in this increase of installed capacity can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5,600,000,000 metric tons by 2050. This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 3% each year.

Reducing these emissions can help avoid the following:

$209 billion in global damages
Nearly 5 million cases of acute respiratory symptoms
Nearly 750,000 cases of childhood asthma
This investment would also establish 195,000 hydropower-related gross jobs spread across the nation in 2050

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